in Vol. 10 - May Issue - Year 2009
Characterization Of Residual Stress
Michael Brauss, President Proto Manufacturing
MG40 with modular field stand
Example of Proto
LXRD with Automated Residual Stress Mapping
MFN has talked to Michael Brauss, the President of Proto Mfg. in Canada and the USA, on several occasions. He is one of the most intriguing personalities of the industry. Once more, MFN gets an insight on his ideas and visions.
(?) MFN: The topic on everyone’s mind these days is the worldwide economic slowdown. How is Proto doing in these perilous and uncertain economic times?
(!) M. B.: Well I have to say that so far, we have experienced continued increases in both our residual stress measurement system and services sales. We feel extremely fortunate and are very grateful to our many loyal customers.
(?) MFN: How do you explain this continued increase in your business volume in this challenging economic climate?
(!) M. B.: Simply put, we are able to help our customers achieve and benefit from an excellent return on investment by tailoring the system to the application so they enjoy a low cost per measurement combined with high measurement throughput.
(?) MFN: Proto Manufacturing first appeared in our magazine in 2002, and has been present ever since, from your perspective what changes have you noted in the last 7 years.
(!) M. B.: Interesting question, I would say that the awareness of the important role residual stress plays in the performance of components and structures has grown significantly across many market sectors and in particular within the peening community. After all, peening is in great part, a residual stress management technique. We’ve been providing systems and services in the characterization of residual stress for over 27 years now and every year we see significant increases in the volume of business involving the characterization of residual stress due to conventional shot peening, laser shock peening, grit blasting and other cold-working techniques.
(?) MFN: Even in these uncertain economic times?
(!) M. B.: Oh yes, especially now! We find that our customers are much more cost conscious and thus are very interested in improving quality and in warranty cost avoidance, much more so than in recent memory. So the value proposition of process optimization, validation and tightening of quality variances as well as supplier substantiation through quantitative residual stress characterization has never been more compelling or yielded better returns! Many of our customers experience a return on investment greater than 3 times in the first year, just on the residual stress measurements, which by itself is impressive. Now add to this, the reduction in costs associated with process optimization, avoiding uncontained quality issues and subsequent warranty costs in an extremely competitive environment, and significant cost savings are realized. In a contracting market, customers place a premium on getting the most value for their expenditures and in extracting the most value from their processes and products. History has shown us that in severe downturns, those offering excellent value gain market share at the expense of those who do not. We help our customers find ways to offer their customers more value.
(?) MFN: In a past interview you explained how, many years ago, Proto got involved with x-ray diffraction and residual stress through providing Automated Nondestructive Test systems for the automotive industry. Now with the automotive industry in turmoil has your involvement with them diminished?
(!) M. B.: Yes, for your newer readers, Proto Manufacturing has been in business since 1967. The primary product at that time and for many years thereafter was Automated Nondestructive Test systems for the automotive industry. These were typically based on a combination of eddy current, ultrasonic and dimensional measurement technologies. The company developed and honed the skills to design, fabricate, program, integrate and service complicated custom automation and testing systems. The discipline of designing these systems to run 24/7 with minimal downtime and the high output cycle times (typically 3-7 seconds) imposed by "Detroit" are still reflected in our design philosophy today. In 1981 I came to the realization that many of the problems that we were being asked to test and sort for, had at their origins, a direct or indirect association with residual stress. I thought that if I could measure residual stress there would be the possibility of intercepting these problems earlier in the processing stages before too much value had been added, thus saving the manufacturer a lot of money. So I began an investigation into all of the various methods which were then available to characterize residual stress. I was looking for a reliable technique that I could integrate into inline automated systems. The only technique that I found which offered even the slightest promise of a repeatable quantitative measurement as well as being a nondestructive measurement was x-ray diffraction, and the rest as they say is history. In answer to your question, you may be surprised to hear that we have more automotive volume than ever before and I attribute that to the increased emphasis on quality and warranty cost avoidance due to an extremely competitive environment.
(?) MFN: What differentiates Proto from other manufacturers of residual stress measurement equipment?
(!) M. B.: I would say that it is a number of things. Our vision was never limited to the status quo. For example, it was quite clear early on that the practice of measuring coupons cut from a structure or component was not in many cases providing very useful data while costing the value of the part. We wanted to measure the component or structure intact so that the value could be retained and the residual stress trends tracked. We have a holistic approach to residual stress characterization. This is reflected in our "turn key" product and accessories line which ranges from very portable to laboratory systems to large robotic systems to inline systems. In addition we have a very aggressive research and development program which has yielded a steady flow of very exciting innovations. I would also add that many of our developments have been the result of carefully listening to our customers’ needs and responding with solutions. Another interesting difference is that I believe we are the only firm that actually offers custom designed XRD systems in addition to our standard model line.
(?) MFN: In our past interviews you always managed to give us the scoop on new innovations from your company. Can you provide some example?
(!) M. B.: Sure, I am very pleased to announce that we have been awarded patents on our "Multi-Map" process. The multi-map process provides the customer instant recognition of the interdependence of various data that the xrd technique provides, for example the user can see the magnitude and spatial distribution of residual stress and at the same time view the magnitude and spatial distribution of a phase such as retained austenite and at the same time view the cold working distribution all from the same area of interest. This is going to revolutionize the speed and effectiveness with which XRD data is utilized to decode and improve processes.
(?) MFN: What is the future of Proto?
(!) M. B.: Well, who can say what the future holds? I think that at Proto we are looking forward to continued innovation and growth in our chosen field of x-ray diffraction and residual stress characterization. The very elegant directness of the x-ray diffraction technique and its many and varied applications will be with us for some time to come and we dedicate ourselves to continually improving our systems and services, offering evermore value to our customers and expanding the leadership role that Proto has in this field.
(?) MFN: Thank you for this interview.
(!) M. B.: Thank you and I wish the best to you, all of your loyal readers, and look forward to our next interview!